Thursday, 25 April 2013

Lost in translation

First thoughts about the 2013 IFFP

For the past three years I've belonged to (and help run) a book group that reads books that have been translated into English.  We've read our way around the world and all manner of genres and met a lot of interesting writers and translators.

This year we are shadowing the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and have been sent two books to read and discuss in advance of a reader's day in London which some of us will be attending.

I've been reading the first of the two "Traveller of the Century" by Andres Neuman (translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia) for over two weeks now and this is very unusual for me as I generally either race through a book or give up on it.

The book is nearly 600 pages long but that isn't the reason for my slowness, in fact I am at a loss to explain how I am reading it.  The story is very slow and ponderous, to be honest after 460 pages not an awful lot has happened, but there is just enough plot to keep me interested. I like the translation strand of the tale, many of the same questions we've grappled with as a group are discussed but I really could do without the sex scenes. I'm not a prude but these seem both badly written and gratuitous.

I want to know how Neuman can resolve so many threads in 150 pages without changing the style. I fear that I am going to feel unsatisfied but the skill shown so far is keeping me hopeful.

I think there are going to be some good discussions around this book both at our next meeting and at the reader's day.  I am glad that our second book is a bit shorter however...

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